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The Perils of Codesharing Agreements

22 December 2016 - CDMX

Terminal 2. Dropped off M at the Aeromexico Terminal 2 and promptly went to the International Terminal 1, arriving two hours before departure.

Terminal 1, 12PM. Went to the checking desk of the wrong Latin American holding company, LATAM (my flight was with Transamerica Airlines). They were like, “we don’t have a 2PM flight to Lima, also, this is an Aeromexico flight, you need to go check in in the other terminal” (it’s true, flight had an AM call sign). The departure gate was still in Terminal 1.

Terminal 1, 12:05PM. In a panic, I run to an elevator and take it to street level, run to the taxi booth to get a taxi ticket and pay $135 pesos (US$6) to be driven back to the other terminal. On the way, the driver gets into an argument with an adjacent driver in Spanish (maybe they were talking smack), at which point, the other guy spits into the car, spraying me and my bag. I roll up the window. The driver and I have a surprisingly long conversation in broken middle school Spanish about why I’m going to the Aeromexico terminal (“hay todo en terminal dos, domesticos y internacionales”).

Terminal 2, 12:10PM. I’m still panicking and without coffee. I run to the Aeromexico terminals to try and check in, skip an offer of complementary coffee and what can only be described as a care package of free potato chips (welcome to Mexico). Everyone takes their sweet time with baggage and ten minutes pass. An agent at the counter looks at my Gmail itinerary print out and actually can’t figure out what carrier I’m taking or why it has a AM call sign. “We don’t even have any Airbus planes.” After some looking around she lists two different Peruvian airlines I should look into, and that they’re federated under Avianca. “You have plenty of time, an hour and 20 minutes! Just take the air train.”

Terminal 2, 12:40PM. Running is hard at Mexico DFs altitude, and seeing my heavy exhales, the guard at the airtrain lets me on. Two guys with the heaviest American accents I’ve ever heard are leaning over their camo bags (they did not vote for Hillary) and gawking at the tin roofs passing underneath the train. This is just like every airport train you’ve ever been on; the quesadillas are much closer though, but still out of reach.

Terminal 1, 12:55PM. Run to the Avianca check-in, and it seems like I’ve actually finally made it. A lady in a red jacket takes my passport and does a lot of computer things. I have no idea what she’s doing or what her UI looks like and it’s absolutely killing me, a silent drama playing out in the back of my mind. She looks and looks and looks and after much typing she goes over to some other people with my passport and words are exchanged. She comes back, speaking quickly (unlike everyone in CDMX) and then realizing that I can’t speak Spanish, indicates in English that she can book me on a flight to Bogota and that I’ll still be able to make my connection in BA. The original flight check-in is closing and the flight is full; no seats are available.

Terminal 1, 1PM. Her supervisor has decided that she can’t do this, because I came to the airport late (no sob stories about the fact that no one knows what Transamerica Airlines is. It turns out it’s known as TACA.) and issues me a standby ticket, saying I can go through immigration and hope that someone has bailed on their seat, a seat on a full international flight just before Christmas (“maybe they are stuck in the bathroom for something”).

Terminal 1, 1PM - 2PM. Whereupon someone at United says that they cant help me and hands me a real physical goddamn phone with the actual United customer service with that eternal Gershwin piano remix. I bounce around, nervously flicking Chrome seeing one-way tickets to USH from MEX. Lots of anxious phoning. Avianca can’t rebook because the ticket is owned by United, and United can’t rebook because they can’t endorse other airlines tickets (which turned out to be bullshit).

Terminal 1, 2:15PM. Holding a pending business class one-way flight on Copa, I make my way back to United, with the some more air travel jargon under my belt. Standing in line, an ANGEL DESCENDS FROM THE HEAVENS, crop cut and brusque, sounding like she grew up in Brooklyn but lived in DF, the weirdest accent ever. She has the air of someone who’s used to talking to the frustrated and helpless but still has a palpable passion for air travel, and ten minutes later, decides that I can fly back to the US and THEN to Argentina (“oh there are two airports in BA. I didn’t know that. That’s so cool!” “Wow, this is the reverse of you return flight. Neat!”). Lots of technical airline drama ensues, and at some point, I’m holding one real phone waiting so she can make another call on another phone so that two people can agree IRL about changing my ticket. Very analog. The guy who refused to help me earlier is sloshing about with his tail between his legs. They exchange harsh words, and a half hour later, exhausted from travel bureaucracy bloodsport and shuffling about on different phones, she returns with boarding passes: “Are you checking any baggage with us today?”

I haven’t hugged a stranger that hard in quite a while.